Night #18: The Devil Rides Out (1968)


Mocata isn’t going to miss the chance of giving Simon his Devil’s baptism at the Grand Sabbat of the year!”

Directed By: Terence Fisher

Satan. He’s not just for metal lovers. Ever since there’s been horror (As vague a term as that is) there’s been Satan, hanging around, tempting people with his mischievous ways. So, what does The Devil Rides Out offer us, and does it add anything to the long lines of cinematic Satans?

First of all we get Christopher Lee in a heroic role, so that’s always nice to see. He plays the Duke De Richleau who, along with his friend Rex, pay a visit to their third friend, Simon. Neither have heard from Simon for months, and turn up at his house to find a swanky, and multicultural, dinner affair. However, and this is something I really do love, within exactly 10 minutes of screentime (I checked), Richleau has clocked that there’s Satanism afoot. It’s never called that exactly, but it is referred to as black magic. Before long they’ve had to kidnap their own friend and then we’re off to the races.

They’re pursued by Macata, the leader of what Simon calls his ‘Astrological society’ but who is really, I don’t know, a warlock or something? In reality he was based heavily on Aleister Crowley, and in one or two moments his lines are lifted from things Crowley had said. Anyway, I’m not sure what the right term is. He is however able to influence his subjects over great distances. He is also always trying to kill something. At the start it’s a couple of chickens, by the midpoint it’s a goat (That he does bump off) and then by the end it’s a little girl. It’s like when you meet someone new and the next weekend they’re clearing out a drawer that they want to keep for themselves. Steady on son, is basically what I’m saying.

There’s also kind of a romantic subplot, sadly one that doesn’t involve Richleau, so it means we get large swathes of the movie without Lee while he’s off doing ‘research’. Sadly it’s all a little weaker for it as the romance is a little confusing. The movie takes place over about three days, and though two characters vaguely remember one another at the start, by the end she’s declaring her love for him. And not in a Fatal Attraction sort of way. That is, I suppose how they did things then.

This is, I believe, the third movie we’ve covered from director Terence Fisher and the fourth from Hammer. I wasn’t intending it to be this way, I just go where my mood takes me. This is also the third with Christopher Lee, and he’s exactly the right actor you want for this. Even when things get hokey, and trust me they do (There’s a really unfortunate scene where we meet the Angel of Death as they ride in on their winged horse. I say winged, they’re clearly glued on from a Halloween costume or something, and the footage is embarrassingly played backwards and forwards as though it were a record and someone was learning to scratch for the first time), Lee is absolutely the guy you want because he’s convincing and commanding. He gets to utter some lines that in the wrong hands would be laughable, but coming from him you think why yes, black magic really isn’t to be trifled with.

It’s that commitment that for me, makes The Devil Rides Out work. It clearly has ideas that reach way beyond the scope of its budget, but it doesn’t care. Goddam it if they want you to see Baphomet appear sitting on a rock than that’s exactly what you’re going to see. The movie never conceals anything, and while it’s all too easy for people to laugh at that, I appreciate it.


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